In this final sermon in a two-part series on generosity, Todd shares how God’s indescribable gift—His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, and the reconciliation we have through Him—should prompt us to be generous givers as well. In 2 Corinthians 8–9, we see that God doesn’t want anything from us but rather for us. By encouraging us to be generous, He is not desiring to rip us off, but rather to set us free–even free to be conformed into the likeness of His Son, Who, “though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The antidote to the gravitational pull of money is generosity.
How to Avoid the Black Hole of Crap That Profits Us Nothing
A Truly Rich Life
Good morning! Hello, friends in Plano, Forth Worth, Dallas, and maybe a few friends by a cup of coffee and a warm fire. We are glad to be here together and remind ourselves of things that are true. It is absolutely certain an object in motion will remain in motion unless some equal and opposite force acts against it, and every week there is an equal and opposite force that acts against our gathering together and reminding ourselves of things that are true.
It's called the ways of this world, our flesh, and an Enemy who is constantly deceiving us, so we gather to remind ourselves of what is true that we might move in the direction that is full of life. When you hear a topic like generosity, you might think, "Okay, man. They're going to try to suck the life or that which is life to me out of me, and I'm not really wild about that."
I want to tell you something. We decided to do this series a long time ago when it was not attached even to some of the opportunities we have right now around us. It was attached to the fact that there is no better time of the year than to look to the one who all we want to do is sing about because he is generous and remind ourselves the reason God wants to teach us about who he is is so we may be like him so we may experience life indeed.
Generosity is something that has a bad name to us. Now listen. Generous people don't. Proverbs talks about how a generous man has many friends, but when people come to you and say, "You need to be more generous," we typically get kind of defensive and say, "What do you want from me?" I'm going to tell you God doesn't want anything from you; he wants something for you, and you're going to learn about it today. Let's pray that our hearts might be tuned to hear his grace.
Lord, thank you that we can gather and we can be reminded of things that are true. We do, Lord, constantly get beaten up with a barrage of messages that woo us and seduce us like a siren song to a reef that destroys the ship that we are sailing on in life, so I pray we would strap ourselves now to the mast of your Word that we may not give the command to sail our ship toward a harbor that is anything but safe.
We want to move toward you, the God who is gracious and generous, who gave his life in a way that caused the angels to sing and people to sing about ever since when they understand what really went down that Christmas morning. Teach us to be like you through that child who was such a gift that wicked men like us could be reconciled to you. Would you draw folks this morning to you who don't know who you are and would you strengthen and deepen the conviction of those of us who know you already? In Jesus' name, amen.
Last week when we started working through the idea of generosity, we introduced you to this thing called the Global Rich List, which is a website where you can jump on and plug in how much money you make. You can either do it by salary or by your net worth, where you add up your assets and holdings and plug them in. You can see where you stack up against the rest of humanity in terms of the resources you've been entrusted with.
If you are a substitute school teacher in America, you are in the top 1 percent. If you are a substitute school teacher, this is where you stack up, so you can imagine most of us are working a little more regularly than a substitute school teacher and have more assets and resources, so we're not just part of that 1 percent that is better off than 99 percent of the world. We're a small part of the 1 percent that is better off than even the rest of the 1 percent. We have much to be generous with.
America needs help in this regard. People don't know what to do with their abundance, and I call to the stand as my first witness to establish that point a little stunt that's done by a group that puts out a game called Cards Against Humanity. How many of y'all have heard of that game, Cards Against Humanity? Yes, you bunch of degenerate knuckleheads. I only say that because you are. It's actually called "A party game for horrible people." That's what's on the box.
Now that I'm done being judgmental, let me explain what Cards Against Humanity is. If you ever played Apples to Apples, which is like one of the most frustrating games known to man… Like, "It's great. Kids can play it." I go, "Well, no one can play it." The deal with Apples to Apples is everybody draws a bunch of cards that are either objects or people in history or moments in history.
There's another stack of cards that is like something… It might be enjoyable. What you're supposed to do is take one of the cards that's in your hand and play down one of those cards on the table that is supposed to match up with the word enjoyable, but typically, what you have in your hand out there that's enjoyable is like a sewing needle, Adolf Hitler, a toothache, and aluminum foil. It's like, "Okay. What do I do with that?" But you have to play one of those cards, and your card, of course, doesn't get picked, and you don't win. I'm like, "That's crazy!"
Well, Cards Against Humanity is basically a bunch of Millennials who got to drinking one night and said, "Let's make up our own game, and we're going to combine Mad Libs, these sentences with blanks, with a little bit more awful cards that people can hold in their hands." It's kind of an adult version of Apples to Apples.
These guys are fairly irreverent and have done rather well with this game, because there are a lot of people who, I guess, are horrible humans and they buy it and they go to Watermark all at the same time. That's the crazy thing. They have, in a very winsome way, continually poked fun at humanity, and specifically the last three years they've taken a run at what humanity does with its excess on Black Friday.
Black Friday is a mark so much of what is black about our hearts in America, us 1 percent of the 1 percenters. This last year, as an example, this last November, just a couple of weeks ago, they put out their third annual Black Friday special, and this particular Black Friday special was that they were going to dig a hole.
That's right. They actually blasted out to their followers and others that they were going to dig a hole this Black Friday. It says in their release, "To celebrate Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity is digging a tremendous hole in the earth. […] As long as you keep spending, we'll keep digging." And that's all they did.
They had a live camera on a piece of land, and they essentially said, "This is what you should do with your money on Black Friday. Give us money, and we're going to hire an earth mover and pay a guy so many bucks per hour, and we're going to keep digging a hole as long as we have money to dig a hole." And off they went.
This is a picture of the very first moment they started digging on Black Friday. Money started coming in. They told the guy, "Go. We have 33 hours left to dig." Then they had 24 hours left to dig. That's the size of the hole. It fast forwards a little bit. Now there are 2 hours and 50 minutes. "Come on. Either give us more money, or we're going to stop digging." There it is. They tweeted, "Hole got dug." You're asking yourself, "What?" Because you ask, "What?" they are smart. They put a Frequently Asked Questions page on their website. Here are the questions.
Question: What's happening here?
Answer: Cards Against Humanity is digging a holiday hole.
Question: Is this real?
Answer: Unfortunately, it is.
Question: Where is the hole?
Answer: America. And in our hearts.
Question: Is there some sort of deeper meaning or purpose to the hole?
Question: What do I get for contributing money to the hole?
Answer: A deeper hole. What else are you going to buy, an iPod?
Question: Why aren't you giving all this money to charity?
Answer: Why aren'tYOU giving all your money to charity? It's your money.
Question: Is the hole bad for the environment?
Answer: No, this was just a bunch of empty land. Now there's a hole there. That's life.
Question: How am I supposed to feel about this?
Answer: You're supposed to think it's funny. You might not get it for a while, but sometime next year you'll chuckle quietly to yourself and remember all this business about the hole.
Question: How deep can you make this sucker?
Answer: Great question. As long as you keep spending, we'll keep digging. We'll find out together how deep this thing goes.
Question: What if you dig so deep you hit hot magma?
Answer: At least then we'd feel something.
Pretty crazy! What's even crazier is this isn't the first thing they did. In 2015, the year before, before they decided to dig a hole they asked people, "On Black Friday, give us money. We're not going to give it to charity. We're just going to keep it."
They put this up there. They said, "Here you go. This Black Friday only, just for this one day, you can give Cards Against Humanity $5. Put your name here, your email address here, and your card number here. Put it all in. Check the box that says, 'I understand I'm giving you $5 and I'm going to get nothing in return,'" and 24,000 people gave them money that they then did whatever they wanted to with it. They actually gave all their employees some, and they said, "I bought an Xbox," or "I did this." For no reason.
The year before that in 2014, Cards Against Humanity said, "You don't know what to do with your money? Why don't you buy a bunch of bull crap?" Literally, they said, "For $6 we'll send you some crap," and 30,000 people said, "Okay," and they shipped out literally $180,000 worth of crap.
You might be thinking to yourself, "Okay, Todd. Those people are crazy," but what I'm telling you is people don't know what to do with all they have…clearly. They're like, "Let's just dig a hole. Let's buy nothing. Let's buy crap." If you look at it, they're pretty smart. All three are the same thing. "Throw my money in a big hole. It's a bunch of crap that's worth nothing."
What I want to share with you is what God is doing is he's trying to spare you from being a normal human. God's trying to bring you to a place where you wouldn't just throw your money into nothing. When Jesus came one of the things that was said about him was that a great light came into the world and the darkness didn't really understand it, but the darkness was overcome by the light.
What Jesus wants to do is bring light into your darkness that you might not see as the rest of the world sees, which really sets me up for how I want to start this. Before we go and look at a very specific correspondence Paul had with a group of people just like us hanging out in a city just like ours as they were being exhorted to be generous in keeping with the indescribable gift of God, Jesus had a word for his friends.
What's interesting about this little section we're about to read in Matthew, chapter 6, is it looks like Matthew and Thomas are operating the teleprompter that day up on the Mount of Beatitudes, and Jesus is giving a speech, and right in the middle of the speech they just switch out the text and added some other speech in the middle of it. Then he goes back to the previous speech. You're like, "What happened in the middle of that?"
Let me read it all the way through and I'll tell you what I mean by this. I'll explain to you that's not what happened at all. (Surprise!) Mostly because there weren't teleprompters and, secondly, because Jesus doesn't make mistakes. So this is a thoughtful commentary. The purpose of this commentary is that Jesus is trying to help people throw their stuff in a hole. "Buy crap that's really worth nothing." Watch this.
He says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves…" Let me just stop right there, because this is not what you'd expect Jesus to be doing. You'd think Jesus would say, "Don't really do what's best for you." Jesus is actually telling you, "I'm going to help you. I want to do what's best for you."
That's why, whenever you're dealing with God, you need to stop thinking like God is trying to get you to do something. God has done something for you and is inviting you in. He's not looking to rip you off. He is looking to set you free. God doesn't want something from you. He wants something for you, so he's just trying to tell you, "Look, guys. I'm going to move you to the best place I can move you."
Generosity is the best investment, because generosity is consistent with the nature and character of God, and anything you do that is consistent with the nature and character of God is going to be worthwhile. He says, "Don't buy stuff that moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, your heart is going to be."
He's saying, "Don't put your heart into a black hole, because it will just be a black heart, and it will not lead you where you want to go." Now watch. " The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"
What? "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Did you see the part where you're like, "What did he just do there?" We're talking about storing up for ourself treasures in heaven. We're talking about not serving two masters. We can't serve God and money.
In the middle, he starts talking about the eye and darkness and the body and all of that different stuff. Let me explain it to you. What Jesus is doing here is introducing a concept which we today refer to as a worldview. A worldview is the lens through which you see reality. It's the way you perceive the world.
What Jesus is basically telling people is, "Here's the problem! There has been a crime committed against humanity and that crime is the world, the enemy, has told you I'm not good, that my Word is not true, that disobeying me is not that big of a deal, and that's a lie, and when you perceive the world like I want to rip you off or like I'm up here to hold you or that I, the God of infinite wealth and perfection and beauty and love and intimacy, need something from you, you're being lied to and you're not seeing what is real."
When your eye takes in that information and when you see the world incorrectly, then how you are perceiving the world is a darkness that will inform your heart, and then your heart and your head are going to do dark things. All he's saying right there is, "I'm trying to give you light. I'm trying to show you."
That's why Jesus used to love to say this. He used to say, "When the blind lead the blind they both fall into a pit, and I am here. Follow me, because when you follow me you will walk toward glory and walk toward life indeed." Jesus is trying to pry our fingers off of things that are controlling us.
It has been well said money is really amoral. It's not in and of itself an evil thing. Too many times I hear people say, "Money is the root of all evil." They think they're quoting the Bible. That is not, in fact, a quote from the Scripture. The Bible doesn't say money is the root of all evil. It says the love of money is the root of all evil.
Jesus is, in effect, saying, "Money is a great servant. It is a horrible master." Use money as the means through which you can be set free and you can be increasing in glory and not just glory now but glory to come. It will work out for you now; it will work out for you later, but stay tuned.
I love this. Money is a tool you can put to work. You can use it for good or you can use it for evil. It's like a gun. A gun is amoral. It can be used to prosecute evil and it can be used to protect innocent or it can be used to harm innocent and to further pain. Money is a tool. It's a test. Are you going to love this more than God or are you going to love God more than this? Therefore, money is a testimony about where your affections really are.
What Jesus is saying is, "It's just a bad idea to worship money." That's why the Bible says the love of money has pierced a man with many a pangs. Many are longing for it and it brought much trouble, to paraphrase, to their souls. A good God is just saying, "Come here, man. Let me tell you the anecdote to money ruling you, and that is to get rid of it." John Wesley used to say something like, "Whenever I get money, I get rid of it as quick as I can lest it affix its grip on me."
Here's what's really interesting about money. There's actually a paradoxical relationship between money and our ability to be generous. Most of us think, "If I had a little bit more, I'd be that much more generous." Right? I mean, if God would give me X plus this, then I'd be generous with it.
Here's the truth. I've seen the opposite to be the case. In fact, so did Paul. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians, chapter 8. What he's doing in this little section of Scripture right here is he's going to share with us about some people who didn't have very much and they were, in fact, exceedingly generous and they were filled with amazing joy. He says, "I want you to learn from them because it's going to go well for you if you can learn from these folks."
He's writing to the church in Corinth, and he wants them to know he had talked about their intention to be generous. He had told another church about their desire to do the right thing. That church got motivated by their desire and actually was generous, and now he's writing back to them to say, "Hey! I'm coming to help you execute on what you wanted to do. I hope you're ready to do it."
That will all make more sense in just a moment, but let me just say this to you. Remember how I said there was a paradoxical or almost inverse relationship between how much we have and how generous we are. That is because money is a thing. Things are made up of a substance or a mass. Here's a truth about mass. We're going to bring some physics in. My kid studied physics. "This is stupid. I'll never use this again. Why am I studying it?"
I go, "Well, first of all, you're studying it because that's what you're assigned and you're learning to be faithful to do what you're supposed to do, so if you just learn that one skill, whether you ever use physics or not again, it will serve you well, so go ahead and learn physics." Let me just tell you I'm going to talk to you about the physics of money.
This is a fact. In physics, mass is defined as the measure of an object's resistance to acceleration when a force is applied to it. Let me say that again. A way to define mass is it's the measure of an object's resistance to acceleration when a force is applied to it. In other words, the less something weighs, the less of a thing, the easier it is to move.
Here's another truth that's going to go with this in just a second. Mass determines the strength of an object's gravitational attraction to other bodies. That's why our sun has a solar system around it. The mass of the sun keeps things in orbit. In other words, the greater the mass of something the more inertia it exerts on other objects to keep it close.
The more money you have, people, the more difficult it is to move away from it. The less money you have the easier it is to get it moving in a good direction. How about if I just say this to you? Let's say this part of the body has one large Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza. That's all you have in the world.
Let's just say you guys own 100 Pizza Hut franchises. Let's just say the Lord says, "Here's what I want you people to do. I've given you your daily bread. I've given you what you need today. I would love to see you all give half of what I've given you to others." This group over here knows what? They know if the Lord doesn't give them another pepperoni pizza tomorrow, they're in trouble, and you could live for a day on a half of a pepperoni pizza.
"So the Lord wants me to give half of my pepperoni pizza? I'm going to die later. Even if I only portion this thing out and I eat one slice a day so I can live for a week, by about the fourth day, I'm not going to want to eat this four-day-old pizza (unless I'm in college, and then all bets are off)." Basically, this group is going to go, "You want half of my pizza? You can take half of my pizza. Are you hungry? I'm going to die tomorrow anyway. You may as well live with me and I can have the joy of watching you be satisfied by my half of a pizza."
What's this side doing over here when they heard the same message you did? I don't know if you guys know what a Pizza Hut franchise is worth, but let's just make it an easy $1 million. You have 100 of them. Have you done the math on $100 million lately? I just asked you to give away half of that, and you'd go, "Hey, man. I still have $50 million. That ain't bad."
You think they're going to have a harder time giving away $50 million than you guys are half a pizza? You bet they are. Yet, we look at that and go, "That's crazy! Shouldn't it be easier for them? I mean, they still have $50 million. You guys have nothing. You're going to die the next day."
Well, that's because they've learned to put their hope in their 100 franchises. They don't really need God. They kind of have a God who is a financial advisor but not as the owner and supplier of their hope, because the gravitational pull of what the world offers as security has begun to own you in a way you never meant for your franchises to own you.
Whereas over here, you've been trusting God day by day. "Give us this day our daily bread…" Which is why, when God was in the wilderness, he basically told them, "Go and collect the manna you need for today. If you collect more than you need, probably check out your neighbor's tent. He may not have as much and you can give him the overflow, but if you try and keep it and store it up so you don't have to trust me tomorrow, it's going to get maggots and it's going to ruin your family."
You see, it's crazy, isn't it? We think, "If God gave me more, I'd be more generous." The truth is the most generous people I have ever met are in third-world countries. When we visited the Congo, a group of us were there teaching. I don't know what you know about going to the Congo. It's one of the most impoverished places on earth. It's where more horrors against women, specifically, have been committed than any other.
Goma is at the base of a volcanic mountain. The city is built on igneous rock. Igneous rock, if you've ever walked on it, is not fun to walk on. When we were in Goma, there was a message that was given a number of years ago on 2 Corinthians 8, what we're about to read together. One of my friends was at…
We went to a bunch of different churches. I didn't go to this church. I actually know the pastor of this church; he became a very good friend of ours because he was one of the leaders of the ministry we were equipping leaders over there. But he was preaching on 2 Corinthians 8. One of my friends was at that church. On our trip to the Congo for 10 days, he had brought four or five pairs of shoes with him.
The guy sitting next to him was there listening to him talk about the fact that sometimes God gives you more than you need because of somebody else who has more than you of want so you in your need to do with stuff more than you have can meet his abundance of need and God can be glorified. He takes your abundance of provision and this guy's abundance of need and both of your needs are met in each other and God is glorified.
When the service was over, that guy was listening and the pastor wasn't talking about sandals. He was just talking about how God gives us all different stuff and we are to be grateful for what he gives us and be good stewards of it. My friend was getting ready to go out and get picked up and driven back to where we all were, and he watched that guy sitting next to him walk up, take his sandals off, lay them up there by the altar, and start to walk home.
He heard people go, "What are you doing?" and he said, "I'm going home." They go, "But how are you going to walk on that igneous rock without your shoes?" He says, "I have another pair of shoes at home. There are people in this church who don't have shoes. I was just told the reason God gave me two pair of shoes was so some people here who didn't have shoes could have the shoes so I would know what to do with my two pair."
My friend who owns, in a sense, many Pizza Huts, said, "Who would have thought God needed to take me to Goma, Congo, to teach me about why I own what I own?" Folks, it's a lot easier when you have two pair of shoes to give away what God gives you than it is when you own a shoe company. Trust me. Because mass has an incredible gravitational pull and Jesus is trying to set you free.
This is what is going on in 2 Corinthians, chapter 8. Let me just say it to you this way. The antidote to the gravitational pull of money is generosity, and not only is that the antidote to it; it's the antidote toward investing your life in digging a hole that you fill up with a bunch of crap that's worth nothing.
Only people with black hearts do that or who just aren't informed by light. Paul, like Jesus, is not about to try and get something from the Corinthians. He's trying to do something for the Corinthians, which is to share with them an opportunity that will give them great joy. Paul is not telling the Corinthians how to get rich; he is telling them how to be rich.
It's what Jesus does. It's what Jesus' servants do. Watch. Listen to me. The reason we don't like and I don't like 2 Corinthians 8, and especially chapter 9, is because health, wealth, and prosperity charlatans have taken this verse and have twisted it and they have made it their go-to verse to get people to give to them because they make God out to be an investment banker and they tell you things like, "You give to God and God is going to give to you."
Now the Bible does say something about that regard, but here's the thing. The Bible never, ever, ever tells you to give so you can get. The Bible talks about giving because you love your Father and you know to be like him is the greatest thing you can be, and the Father says, "The more you're like me and obedient to me the more I'm going to show you who I am."
Here's another physical law. It's called the law of inertia, and that is that an object in motion is more likely to remain in motion, and once you start doing what God wants you to do and you see the joy of it, you start to go, "This is a good way to live." It's exactly what our experience has been, has it not, in our following after Christ.
Let's read this. He says, " Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia…" What he's going to say is, "That thunderclap of obedience up there? What happened in Macedonia is exactly what should happen. Whenever the lightning of the grace of God strikes, there ought to be a thunderous response of grace."
Jesus says it this way again and again. "The one who is forgiven much loves much." The one who has experienced generous amounts of grace is graciously generous is what I would say to you. "This church up in Macedonia," he's telling the Corinthians, "…that in a great ordeal of affliction…" This is who they were. This is a third-world church, if you will. They had an "…abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality."
You don't go visit Macedonian churches when you go through the Middle East these days. You do go visit Corinth. Corinth was one of the wealthiest and most prosperous cities. It was easier for Macedonia in their one-pizza world to be what God wanted them to be than it was for the Pizza Hut-owning Corinthians, but Paul is trying to tell them, "You want the joy the Macedonians had? You ought to be like them."
He's going to go on to say, "When I was with you and we talked about the gospel and who God was and what he had done, you bought all in, and you said, 'We want to live for Jesus.' I told you one of the things that is happening right now is there is a famine in Jerusalem." We know the church in Jerusalem, as we've been studying the book of Acts, is being oppressed by the greatest power on earth, the most present power in their little world and by the most passionate purveyor of hate, by that one little present power.
So Paul, in effect, was saying, "The church in Jerusalem is really struggling and we, because we're in the free Roman Empire and the Sanhedrin (the Jewish powers that be) aren't oppressing us here, we have a freedom. Rome is letting us follow Jesus. We ought to right now out of our abundance care for that church back there that they might see God's love for them."
The Corinthians said, "We're going to do that," and Paul said, "Great. You guys pray about how God wants you to do that. I'm going to continue to minister to churches." He went up to Macedonia. He told about how the gospel had been effective in Corinth and the Macedonians begged them. This is what it says. They begged him.
"For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints…" They said, "We want to get in on what God is doing. You're telling me God is caring for people in a way that is making God's name be glorified? The God who came and gave himself for us?"
The Macedonians heard this incredible message, that the God who created the heavens and the earth saw the earth was filled with darkness and error and deceit and instead of leaving it in darkness and error and deceit, the generosity of God was such that he left the comforts of heaven and, though he was rich for their sake, became poor so that out of his poverty they could become rich.
I don't know if you guys know it or not but I just quoted 2 Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 9. The Macedonians go, "You mean God did that for us? He set us free from bondage to idolatry and Roman paganism, and he made us who we know we're wicked. We know there's a God who created this world, and you're telling me he saved me?"
Yep. "You're telling me I can be reconciled to him, and now you're telling me I can be a means of grace to others the way he's a means of grace to me? We want that." They begged that they could partner with God to do good things. Paul says, "…and this, not as we had expected…" I mean, Paul said it was amazing what the Macedonian church did.
"They first gave themselves to the Lord and then they gave themselves to us because we were the servants who brought that message, and they did much more than we even expected," because that's what God has people who know him do. God has people who know him become like him, and Paul said, "I was blown away by it."
He goes on to say, "I'm sending you Titus." Chapter 8 explains he sends two other men who he's going to send down to the Corinthian church. He says, "These three men are going to take your gifts. Not me. They're going to take your gifts, and they're going to take 100 percent of it down there to Jerusalem, and they're going to further the name of Jesus because the grace of God is going to come from the church of Jesus Christ to the saints in Jerusalem and to other people that they might see the love of God for people in the name of Jesus."
Paul is explaining all of that, and he says this to the Corinthians in verse 7. Watch this. "But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance [your speech] and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love…" This is what the church does. The church grows in compassion, in mercy, in the lack of racism, in morality. The heart and the nature of man changes when he comes into relationship with the living God. The glory is being restored.
This is what the Scripture says in 2 Timothy 2:22. It says, "Flee immorality," because that's the way the world goes when its eyes are filled with darkness, "…and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." This is what he says in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 22. Watch. This is Paul to a church. "…the fruit…"
The evidence of you having a relationship with God, you who were far apart being brought near by the work of Jesus that you know God… When you're reconciled to God his Spirit is indwelling in you, and we know his Spirit is indwelling in you and you're yielding to it because we see the fruit of God being in your life produce these things.
What does the presence of God produce in a person's life? It produces love. It produces joy. It produces peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, but that's not it. Watch this. This is so important. I always want to say this. The fruit of the Spirit is singular. It's not "fruits."
That's why when you're praying you shouldn't pray for patience. You shouldn't pray for self-control. You don't say, "God, give me more peace," because God doesn't give it that way. I mean, peace isn't a thing God gives. Self-control isn't a thing God gives. He's not going to get mad at you if you pray that way, but I'm going to show you something.
What God does is when God is there peace is there. When God is there love is there. When God is there and he is operative and you're yielding to the presence of God and the hope you have in God, then all of those things, every good thing, is present. Love is there. Joy is there. Peace is there.
Think about the manger. Think about Christmas. What was there? The reason the angels sang, "Peace on earth, good will to men," is, "Look at the faithfulness of God who loves man." All of the elements and attributes of God were there, and the angels could do nothing but sing about it. The more God is in your life because of the Christ child the more there should be things to sing about.
But those nine things in Galatians 5:22 are not exhaustive. They are just a list which Paul cranked out that are some of the attributes of the beauty of God. We know from 2 Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 6, there's another attribute that if it's not present in your life it's because the Spirit is not operative in your life.
One of the things I say to people all of the time was a phrase I used. I taught one time at a camp and we were teaching about the spiritual life, and the Gatorade slogan at the time was, "Is it in you?" Because if Gatorade is in you, you can go and you can motivate and you can work out and you can dunk like Michael Jordan and play soccer like Mia Hamm is what they're selling.
Really, what I used in that illustration is if God is operative in your life, if the Spirit of God is in you and you are yielding to it, then you can love your wife, you can have peace that passes understanding, you could be filled with self-control in the way you eat and the way you exercise and the way you bite your tongue, because it's not whether you want to eat or whether you want to exercise or whether you want to say that thing in anger, because it's no longer you who live but Christ lives in you and the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God who loves you and delivered himself up for you.
At any given moment, even somebody like me who has a relationship with God (the Spirit is in me), I have to yield to the Spirit, and if I yield to the Spirit, guess what I'm going to do? Love my wife. Not say the things I want to say in anger. When I get a report from a doctor or from a friend I didn't want to hear, peace. God's not freaked out about it. All power is his. All of the things God wants to be there are there. I just have to live in them.
What I'm trying to tell you is one of the things that is there when the Spirit of God is there is generosity, and if you're not generous, it ought to make you go, "I wonder why I'm not generous." Biblically, the answer is because you either don't have a relationship with the Spirit or you are quenching the one you do.
Just like it costs you when you quench the Spirit that wants you to be filled with peace when you are filled with despair or when you're not loving it makes you be filled with hate and you pay a price for it, you're paying a price for not being generous, because God's way is good, right, and true. Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 8:6, "Guys, your speech is good. Your knowledge is good. Your love is good. If the Spirit in you is operative, your generosity will be good and it will go well with you."
Watch this. He says in verse 8 (I want to read it to you), "I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also." In other words, what he's going to basically say is, "Just like the Macedonians got after it and that was evidence of the lightning of grace in their lives, I want to be able to say, 'Listen to the thunder of generosity there because the lightning of grace has struck Corinth as well.'"
" For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." ** Do you see what he's doing? Paul is just saying, "You go. You go." Then he says, "I want you to be ready. " Verse 10: **" I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage…""I don't want anything from you. God's going to take care of the saints, but I want you to jump in." "…who were the first to begin a year ago…""Now you have to finish with your desire to do it."
What Paul is saying, in effect, here is, "I went from Corinth up to Macedonia. I talked about what the gospel produced in Corinth, that the pagan Corinthian people were now walking with Jesus and they were being generous. You told me, 'Paul we're going to gather some stuff. When you come back, we'll give it to you.' I'm now up here. The Macedonians heard about that. They trusted Christ. They went ahead and did it because I'm leaving and now I'm coming to you. Be ready so you can share in the joy they're already sharing in."
Paul is saying, "Don't wait till I get there and you now give because you're under compulsion. Give because you want to give because you know what Christ has given for you, not because I'm there to go, 'Are you giving?'" He sent Titus and two other guys ahead, "So the gift might be ready that you said you wanted to give." This is what's beautiful.
I'll just tell you, I do this all of the time. I'm like the Corinthians. I'm like the son in Matthew, chapter 21. Jesus tells a parable. He says there are two sons. The father says, "I want you guys to work in the field." The first son says, "You go work in the field," and the second son says, "All right! I'll go work in the field, Father." Then a little bit later the first son came to his senses who said, "You know what? That probably wasn't a good thing to do. I know who my father is. His way is better. I'm going to go work in the field."
The second son who said he would go never went. Jesus says, "Which one of these two did the father's will?" The answer was the guy who ended up going, and Jesus tells this story to the Pharisees who, in effect, were looking at themselves saying, "We're here doing God's will. We're holier than other people. We're better than other people."
They didn't understand grace and mercy; whereas the tax collectors and prostitutes didn't do the Father's will, but when the Father came in the person of the Son, they go, "We're going to do the Father's will," which is to believe in the Son, whereas the Pharisees, who were spiritual guys, had the form of godliness, never went to work for God. They weren't gracious, merciful, or humble. They were prideful, self-dependent, and arrogant. That's why he tells that story.
I got an incredible message from a friend who I love and trust deeply who is doing some work in another part of the world. He said, "Todd, this is what's going on. Pray." It was an opportunity for me to be generous. It was two days ago. I go, "I'm doing that. I'm in." I haven't done it yet. I just haven't gotten around to it. I almost gave to it two days ago, but I haven't given yet, which gets me to my favorite little ad campaign by the Ad Council.
Have you ever seen these things? There's one that has a picture of an old woman sitting there very quietly. There's a voice-over basically saying, "This is Sara Watkins. A lot of people almost helped Sara. One almost cared for her. Another almost dropped by to say hello and talk. Another almost drove her to the doctor. They almost helped her. They almost gave of themselves, but almost giving is not the same as giving. Don't almost give."
Then there's this one of a house that had been smoldering from a fire. "This is a house that was almost saved from a fire that was almost put out by neighbors who saw smoke and who almost volunteered to help put the fire out. Almost giving is like not giving at all. Don't almost give." Isn't that good? I don't know who on the Ad Council read 2 Corinthians 8, but somebody did, because that's exactly what Paul is saying.
"Hey, Corinthians. I'm glad you said you wanted to be generous like Jesus was, but don't wait till Jesus is here and go, 'I wish I had given.'" The rest of chapter 8 is basically Paul talking about some of the ways that's going to go down. It ends in verse 24 with him basically saying, "Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you."
Can I just tell you guys this? There are a lot of things that are said about Watermark that are out there, and I am humbled to be a part of this community, but do you know what I think we could do better in? I want the world to go, "That is the most generous church in the world." I mean, listen. We already, in so many ways… I don't know if you guys know this or not, but we've never used debt in anything we've done here because people have been generous to a certain level.
We have an opportunity now. I'm just going to let you know. Fort Worth. We finally have found a spot for them. We're going to get them out of The Ridglea and hopefully and prayerfully (as soon as it's all done on paper we'll be more specific) we have an opportunity to help our Fort Worth friends and that ministry get established in a way, if God brings the resources together and we can be generous toward it, we're going to do.
We have opportunity to finish different floors to make disciples in over there, and I invite you to jump in and have people go, "That church is incredibly generous! The Dallas church is incredibly generous toward the Fort Worth church as the Fort Worth church has been giving toward Dallas projects and Dallas has been giving toward Plano and together they've been giving to churches around the world." Not just to churches but to things that advance the kingdom of God. We have an opportunity that that is our renown. It has been in some ways, guys.
There are people here who have been generous…I'll come back and tie this all up in a minute…for a long time, and I think we can do better still as we start to go, "I happen to be a Pizza Hut owner, and I'm giving a few pizzas here and there to make me feel good to a local little Boy Scout troop when I need to be able to do a whole lot more because God has given me a whole lot more to do it with." As we know more of his goodness, we can do that.
Watch. Paul is saying, "I've told people the lightning of grace has hit you. May the thunder of generosity be evident in you when I show up, because that would be a blessing to you!" When you're generous, it encourages other people. When you're generous, it establishes that your faith in the Spirit of God is active in you.
When you're generous, it extends your blessing because you don't just buy a bunch of crap that's worth nothing and put it in a hole. It lasts forever and it advances what God says is eternal. When you are generous, it exalts your God and makes people thank him because, for no good reason except that God's man was there, they got half a pizza. It also embodies your Savior. That is called a win-win-win-win-win-win, so I'm just saying why wouldn't we do it?
Paul is saying right here in verse 1 of chapter 9, "For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry…" *"You guys are all in already." *"… for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians…""But I'm sending the brethren in advance so you can do it. Not because I'm there as the apostle Paul but that you'd do it as followers of Christ. Otherwise, I'd hate to see the Macedonians show up and you guys almost gave. I've told people this community loves Jesus. Show them you love Jesus." That's what he's saying.
Watch this. This is verse 6. What Paul is going to tell you right now is the law of the harvest works in many arenas including how you handle finances. This is the verse I hate because it's tortured by charlatans who tell you that you should give to get. The Bible never tells you that you should give to get more for yourself. You should give more because when you give more you get more to give.
Watch this. " Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly…" In other words, let's just say this group over here (the one pizza folks) had a handful of seed, and you throw your little whole handful of seed out and you're going to get all the crops that come from a handful of seed. They might go, "Man! It would have been awesome if we had a whole bucketful of seed that we could have sown."
You guys own barrels full of seed, but if you just go, "That's awesome. They did a handful, but we're going to do a bucket or one barrel," you're going to get a barrel's worth of crops, but if you put barrel after barrel after barrel after barrel, how big will your crop be? It will be a lot bigger, won't it? Right?
The more seed you sow the more fruit you're going to reap, and that is just a law of the harvest, he says. You reap what you sow. You reap more than you sow. One seed puts up an entire stalk, but it's going to produce more and more and more. Paul is just being honest. He's saying, "Look! Just so you know this is the way it works."
I'll explain something to you about this in a minute. Watch this. "Each one must do…" **Listen to me. This is true of you."Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."** Ryan, come here. I'm going to ask you to do something with me.
Ryan and I get up here early on Sundays, as many other folks do. Sometimes I have stuff right after this, so someone actually brought me lunch today. Ryan, you've been up here early. You'll be hanging around with me this afternoon as well, and I know you had mentioned before this that you were hungry. Take a seat. Really.
You probably didn't have somebody bring you food. Listen. There's more than enough food for me. I don't want to see it go to waste, so I would love to share out of my more than abundance. I mean, this isn't even generous. This is just me sharing my little food with you right here, and I'd be happy to share. Especially the veggies. Here. Take those. Cauliflower.
No big deal. You and I are going to work hard together today so let's be strong together. God bless you. What's Ryan thinking? "That was nice. Todd's wife brought him food, and I was hungry, and Kris has other stuff with my kids, so I couldn't." How many of you guys thought that was awesome? Right? No big deal, but that's not my illustration. Give me my food back.
Here's what I want to do. I'm just going to stay busy preaching the Word and getting after it. Right here. "…God loves…" In 9:7. "…a cheerful giver."
Ryan: I'm really hungry. I'd love a little.
Todd: I know that. I shared that with everybody already, but I'm busy. Anyway, in 9:7 it says when we give grudgingly…
Ryan: No disrespect, but I'm really hungry, and you have…
Todd: Let me ask you a question. I mean, this is not new for us. We both get up here every now and then early, and you knew you were going to be here all day like I am, so what I did is I disciplined myself and I got up a little earlier than you and I actually ate a big breakfast, which you said you had a cup of coffee this morning. That was it. I remember you telling me that.
I just would tell you I ate a breakfast so I'm okay now, but I've also arranged with my wife to have food. That discipline wasn't in your life. That forethinking wasn't in your life. I'm sorry, but you're going to be okay. I'm going to go back to this. I'm talking about Jesus, so please don't interrupt me. As a student of the Word of God, let me just show you what it says.
Ryan: Todd. Just a little bit?
Todd: You want some of my food?
Todd: You can have it. Seriously. I have plenty. Have some potatoes. There's some chicken. You can have some of that. Good. The veggies are all yours. Is that enough? Now you have more to share with other people. Okay? Great.
Let me ask you guys a question. How many of y'all were encouraged by the way I just gave to Ryan? I gave him more the second time, but was there anything about that that made you love my Father, that made you go, "Todd's a generous dude"? I don't know what you're thinking when you go, "All right, God. You want some of my money? How much do you want?"
Like it's my money. I didn't put that food on my plate. You start flinging mashed potatoes at people like you're doing somebody a favor, and God goes, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I can take care of people. I was just inviting you into the blessing so people would look at your life." Scripture says the one who is generous will be blessed.
What do you think Ryan would do? "Do you know what Todd did today?" He'd speak well of me. More than that, he'd go, "That was such a gift." This is not just about food, people. Watch this. It says when you're that kind of a person who gives that kind away… Watch. I want you to read verses 8 through 10 with me.
" And God is able to make all grace abound to you…" This is explaining verse 6."…so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…" **That's the abundance that will come. The more you do… This is John 14:21."He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."**
Once you get moving in that direction, once the mass is moving, you're going to find out it's going to take more to stop it because you're going to see the joy in doing it, and God is going to increase. It says, "…so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written…" Paul is going to quote from David in Psalm 112. "He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, his righteousness endures forever."
If you titled Psalm 112, you would easily title it "The Prosperity of the One Who Fears the Lord." The one who fears the Lord and doesn't want to miss out on a single thing God says is good. That person's life is going to multiply in joy, and his righteousness and the renown about him and God's work in him and through him is going to go on forever. Watch this. Verse 10 is Isaiah 55. Paul is going to call Isaiah to the witness stand.
"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness…" It doesn't say, "Give God $10 and you'll get $100 back." It will say God is going to increase that righteousness which is attributed to you, and you're going to see the goodness of God's way, and he's going to increase your passion to do what God wants, and you're going to multiply the joy you have in establishing your faith, exalting your God, embodying Jesus, and it's going to be a blast!
The bottom line is he's going to say, "… you will be enriched in everything for all liberality…" Not that you can be indiscriminate in your money but that you might go, "This is good!" and you're going to be free, and you're not going to be bound by this mass that sucks you closer and closer to it.
Money and things trap you. Jesus sets you free. That's the point of this text. More than that, he says it's going to produce thanksgiving to God. Jesus will set you free. God will be glorified. His work on the earth will be established. Here's basically the application of this. When Paul says what he says in 9:6, he's saying, "Good service gets repeat business."
You guys go somewhere and get a haircut. It's a good deal. It's a good haircut. What do you do? You go back and you tell people, "You ought to go there. That guy is a good barber." A guy comes to your house. A plumber. You don't know what's going to happen. He can charge you whatever he wants. He says, "This is all you had going on. I'm in and out quickly. It's not even that. It's this." You go, "That's good service. Guess what. I'm calling you next time. When I need to reroute the whole system I'm calling you."
That's all Paul is saying. He's just saying good service gets repeat business. When God gives you means through which you can be a means for his name to be exalted, Christ to be made known, and his people to be cared for, and you do that with it, guess what Paul said he's likely to do. Give you an opportunity to do it more.
This is so great. "For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God." Others are going to celebrate God in this. This is the goal of everything. Not that a building would be named after me but that God would be glorified.
That's why you don't just give indiscriminately or anonymously in the sense that you don't say, "I don't want you to know where this came from." You give this way anonymously. "You don't need to know who I am; you need to know whose I am. This is Jesus loving you." " Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God…" **There it is again."…for your obedience to your confession of the gospel…" Guess what else is going to happen. Verse 14:"… while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you."**
Every now and then I get a letter from three little kids living in impoverished Uganda. They say, "Daddy Todd, I pray for you, and I thank my God for you, and my family thanks God for you. My siblings (you know we don't have parents) thank God he has allowed you to know of us and care for us. We pray God would protect you and bless you, and we thank God because of you, and we ask God to bless you more." I could dig a hole or do that.
I thank God every time I walk into this building. I pray for you. You gave to Watermark between 2003 and 2013 specifically. Every time I walk into this building, I say, "God, would you bless those people who didn't just throw their money into a hole or another new MacBook Pro or a Furby or whatever those new things are called this year." What are they called? Hatchables. God bless you. Go get you a Hatchable.
I'm just telling you, when people gave to this place it did something. It facilitated you and me coming here to be equipped and to be reminded and to get after it for Jesus. People are getting after it. Let me just close with this. I don't know if you saw the Watermark news story, but because somebody gave to this place, God brought folks here, and the Word was taught, somebody was generous with their cancer.
They had cancer. They went to their oncology treatment because they learned to love Jesus and glorify God in all things. They were committed to loving people while they got their chemotherapy treatments. They went up there, and it just so happened, the next Miss Texas who was rich in the things of this world was working at this oncology center. This gal just said to her, "Tell me about your life. Tell me about your story. You're here to help me as I kill this death in me. I want to find out if there's any life in you."
Miss Texas basically said, "I have an eating disorder. I have nothing but a fear of this world not loving me." This person said, "Let me tell you about my Jesus." She said, "I'm not going to go to your church." Well, she had to sit next to her the next time she had an oncology treatment and this continued until, finally, Miss Texas said, "I'll come visit." She almost came but she didn't come.
Then, our friend went back who had been discipled here because you guys facilitated that means of grace, and Miss Texas went to give her the next chemotherapy treatment and she said, "No. I'm not going to take my treatment today." She says, "Why not?" She goes, "Because I don't really care about the death that's in me."
Miss Texas looked at her and said, "You have to." She went and got her family. "She's not going to take her chemotherapy treatment." She said, "Wait a minute. This is not about the death in me. This is about the death in you. Come and see my Jesus." Miss Texas walked into this place with that friend to a Bible study and slowly came to know the grace of God.
This is just your Watermark news story this week. I don't even have to make it up. Because people were generous with their testimony, generous with being equipped and discipled, because folks had created a means for that, what are we doing? Let's go! Because there are all kinds of people who have everything the world thinks they need who are dying when those of us who have cancer are free and there's a peace that passes understanding because the lightning of grace has struck us.
"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" That's verse 15. The infinite one became finite. The sinless one became sin. The dead one became alive. How do you describe that? The answer: You get to know him, you yield to him, you follow him, you embody him in every way that you can that others might see a little bit of that in us. Let's be generous. Amen?
Father, here we go. I pray you would just increase in our hearts today more than anything an affection for you. I pray people walk out of here going, "Can you believe what Jesus did?" Thank you, then, for what you did, Jesus, in the life of the Macedonians and the Corinthians so people who were in the middle of a famine and other parts of the earth who were in a famine of truth heard the gospel.
I pray this week as we go out we'd be generous with our testimony, generous with our time, generous with our smiles, generous with our dying to self that you might live, generous, Lord, with the least of things (money) that you would save us from throwing crap that's worth nothing into a hole and we wouldn't live with a Black Monday or a Black Tuesday, but we would live with a very bright spiritually informed and eternally multicolored joy that has all the generosity and markings of our Savior who was born who makes us sing.
Lord, we love you. I pray we would not sling potatoes. I pray we would get the gravitational pull of our incredible things moving and we would increase in all liberality, that praise for you would increase, and that our joy in our investment would increase for your glory. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
If you are here and you don't know of this Jesus, would you come? If you know him, would you go tell it on the mountain? We'll see you on Christmas Eve. Have a great week of worship.